Showing posts with label Wexford. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wexford. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Wexford: A 48-hour visit

Wexford: A 48-hour visit 

Cuan Aingeal. A remembrance garden for children who have died in tragic circumstances

Arriving in Wexford around lunchtime on Thursday, we immediately headed for La Vista, the restaurant with a view and pretty decent food also, nestled in the renovated Opera House. Took in those views over the city and estuary and, suitably refreshed, headed down to Kilmore Quay with its

Monday, June 10, 2024

Hooked on Fish? Head for La Côte in Wexford.

A Seafood Symphony: La Côte in Wexford Makes Waves

Calling all seafood lovers! If you find yourself in Wexford with a hankering for fresh, flavourful fish, look no further than La Côte Seafood Restaurant. Nestled on Custom House Quay, this gem might have eluded me on a previous visit to the area, but let me tell you, it was worth the wait!


Location, Location, Location (and a Train!)

Finding La Côte is a breeze. Just head to

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

A Wexford Jewel: La Vista Cafe at the National Opera House

Wexford Jewel. 

La Vista Cafe at the National Opera House

La Vista Cafe isn't just a cafe – it's an experience! Perched on Level 3 of Wexford's National Opera House, it boasts jaw-dropping views of land, river, and sea that will have you singing its praises (almost as loudly as the opera performances!). This 50-seater cafe boasts

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Exquisite Aldridge Lodge. Accomplished Cooking in Attractive Corner of Wexford

Exquisite Aldridge Lodge.
Accomplished Cooking in Attractive Corner of Wexford 

Aldridge Lodge is one of Ireland’s hidden gems. A top class restaurant, with a Michelin bib since 2007, in rural surroundings just outside of the Wexford village of Duncannon (with its Kennedy family connections). Amazing food here and, hidden or not, you’ll be well advised to book well in advance. Even more so if you want one of the three rooms on offer.

The beautiful spacious rooms are very much in demand and I’m told that groups make annual dates here. They enjoy a great meal, at very reasonable prices, and then take a bottle or two of wine upstairs, where there is a very comfortable common room, and chat into the night.

Aldridge Lodge may in a secluded part of County Wexford but you won’t feel isolated here as the marvellous Hook Head Peninsula is just a short drive away - you may visit the lighthouse, the haunted Loftus Hall, Tintern Abbey and its 200-year old Colclough Gardens, and Ballyhack and its castle, and so much more.
Duncannon Tasting Plate

Chef Whitty
Billy Whitty and Joanne Harding are the owners here and the welcome is warm. Chef Billy met us as we parked and helped bring in the cases and invited us to come down for dinner at our leisure.

And it is leisurely, no rush, but no delays either! First you are brought into the bar area. The menus are brought as you sip your drink - I enjoyed their special Aldridge “G&T”! They don’t have a spirits licence so the special “G&T” is based on white port. Delicious!

The choice for the 35 seater restaurant is fantastic, almost totally local. Billy’s family are involved in fishing and farming in the area and are the main suppliers. 

They have a Tasting Menu for just €35.00. After an amuse bouche in the lounge, you move into the dining room and do watch out for a superb starter, the Duncannon Tasting Plate: Tempura smoked salmon, smoked salmon mousse, smoked sea trout and a divine smoked haddock fish pie.
Pork Belly

The Middle Course may offer Twice cooked free-range pork belly rib with celeriac purée, soya and honey jus. Or Seared Kilmore scallop with Gubbeen chorizo croquette and creamed cauliflower. Each terrific.

If you are there in winter-time, it is probable that venison will feature. I certainly enjoyed the Venison haunch and loin with a black pudding cake and tomato. CL’s choice was also superb: Glazed Free Range Chicken Breast with spiced sprouts, cranberry compete, roast baby parsnips, golden raisins, almonds and pan juices.

Desserts are also rather special. Ours were Raspberry Tiramisu and a Vanilla Crême Brulée with honeycomb. There’s an interesting and wide-ranging wine list, also a selection of ports and dessert wines. Quite a few available by the glass. We finished off with one of their specials: a glass of the delicious Stonewell Tawny. They also have local beers, mainly from the Cleverman range.
Breakfast "starter"

After a good night’s sleep, we woke to see the December sun shining over Duncannon before heading down to the same room for breakfast, another five star event, again with Billy in the kitchen and also front of house! 
Plaice plus!

We didn’t go for the Full Irish, but rather the Full Fish! Let me give you a few details; the magnificent plate came with plaice fillets, reinforced with a poached egg (choice of hen or duck), tomatoes and a Portobello mushroom. All that after some terrific starters including Pear poached in red wine and a Yogurt pot with hazelnuts and raspberry.

That set us up for the day, for sure. Time then for a leisurely chat with the chef/owner before we struck off to Ballyhack to begin the journey home with a short ferry trip to Passage East, all the while promising ourselves we’d be back!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Brunch at Hook Head. Then take the tour.

Brunch at Hook Head
Then take the tour.
On a good day!

A reviving brunch first. Followed by the refreshing lighthouse tour t. Vice versa perhaps? 

It’s up to you when you visit the fabulous Hook Head Lighthouse in County Wexford. And it’s a place you may visit any time of the year, even during the winter, even during the Christmas holidays.

Let us start with the brunch as I did on a recent Sunday. They have really upped their food offering here since a 2016 visit and brunch is available all day every Saturday and Sunday and they hope to extend it throughout the week during the school holidays. 

Oh, by the way, the lighthouse and cafe are open year round. So if you’ve seen the beautiful views on a calm day, do not hesitate to go down on a rougher one and you’ll get a different “tour”.
Not such a good day!

During our December (02.12.18) visit, the weather was mainly cloudy and very windy at the Hook and that meant it was quite spectacular, a great day to visit! Even if we had to work our way through spray flying across the narrow approach road from time to time. Indeed, there is a wooden “rampart” by the wall surrounding the lighthouse and we got an invigorating splash or two as we took in the views from that vantage point.

Before all that though, we sat ourselves down in the spectacularly situated café in the former lighthouse keepers cottages and found that the food offering wasn’t bad at all! Indeed, it was considerably better than the breakfast fare endured earlier at an expensive hotel in the north of the county.

The two rooms were close to full. No wonder it is proving so popular. You may also choose from a more general menu for lunch or just for snacking.

The Brunch list includes morning mainstays such as Eggs Benedict and Ballyhack Smokehouse Salmon. There’s also a Protein Packed Avocado Toast and another vegetarian option is Toast and local mushrooms, both options on toasted sourdough.

The general menu offers Soups, salads and sandwiches and quite a few more substantial meals such as a heart-warming Pie of the Day and they also have a Children’s Menu. At any time, you can drop in for a cuppa and a scone, a dessert perhaps.

Very encouraging too to see they are committed to the environment. Quite a few examples of that from their compostable napkins to their use of paper rather than plastic straws.

Back to the food and we ordered their Home-made Pancakes, described as Beer and cardamon sugar pancakes. No shortage of toppings: banana, crispy bacon, Ballyhack smokehouse salmon, cream cheese and, of course, maple syrup. We choose the banana and syrup and a generous  pot of decent quality tea.

So having made your way to Hook (about two hours from Cork, take the Passage East-Ballyhack Ferry), you may as well do the guided tour. Indeed the guides here are regularly praised and our fellow was also top class.
Take the ferry, from or to the Waterford side

If these walls could talk. You say to yourself as you enter the 800 year tower that houses the Hook Lighthouse on the tip of Waterford’s Hook Peninsula. 

You soon find out, they do talk. In the first room, with its ribbed vault structure just like the two rooms above, a monk, a digital one, appears and talks about when he came here in the 6th century (maybe!). He was Welsh and called Dubhain. Having founded a small monastery, he and his fellow monks noticed the many shipwrecks in the area and set up an open fire to warn mariners.
Inside the lighthouse

Good, but not good enough for the next person you meet, on the next floor. This is William Marshal, another Welshman and a powerful knight, who was very influential in the south east of Ireland at the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th century. He built the nearby Tintern Abbey and the town of New Ross and more, including this lighthouse (sometime between 1210 and 1230). Monks were again in charge, living here, keeping the faith, keeping the flame.

As you climb the solid building, you see where the monks cooked, lived and slept. Many changes then during the centuries, before, in 1996, the lighthouse was automated and the light keepers (no longer monks!) departed after almost 800 years. And the modern keepers are commemorated on the third floor, projected onto the wall to tell their story.

Out then onto the windy balcony to take in the fabulous views over the seas, over the land. The famous bird sanctuary of the Saltee Islands is visible to the east and to the west you can see The Metalman, another landmark for mariners, this on a cliff near Tramore in County Waterford.
Games and picnics

As well as the light, a fog signal was operated at the lighthouse. For centuries a cannon gun was fired off the edge of the cliff during fog. This was replaced by a hooter, which in turn was replaced by rockets. In 1972 a foghorn worked by compressed air was installed. 
If you didnlt have the brunch or lunch before climbing and descending those 115 steps, you’re probably well up for it now! Enjoy.

Quite a few walks too in the lighthouse area but be careful. Not all tragedies here have happened to people in boats.

Our guided tour was in English and it is also available in French, German, Spanish, Irish and Italian. Whales and dolphins may be observed from the shoreline around Hook Head with a good pair of binoculars. It is a great visit, to what is believed to be the oldest operational lighthouse in the world, and you can find out much more, even see a video visit, see the web cams too, on the website here

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016: Best Places to Stay

Best Places to Stay 2016

Stayed in quite a few places this year. From Kerry to Meath, from Donegal to Dublin, from Limerick to Waterford,  from West Cork to Wexford. These were the best. Suggestions for 2017 welcome! 

 Screebe House, Connemara

Killiane Castle, Co. Wexford
Anyone for croquet at Killiane?

Cahernane House Hotel, Killarney.
Cork Recommendations
East Cork
Garryvoe Hotel, East Cork
Samphire Restaurant, Garryvoe Hotel
West Cork
 Celtic Ross Hotel, West Cork
Warren Beach, Rosscarbery

2016 Reviews - see also
Cafes by the side of the road.
Best Hotel Dining Rooms
Meals with a difference

Best Steaks & 3 Best non-Cork Restaurants 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cistín Eile. Slí Eile

Cistín Eile. Slí Eile


Cistín in the title of this narrow-fronted restaurant in a narrow Wexford street hints at bacon and cabbage and beef galore. And that is confirmed when you study the menu. But here, the bacon and the beef, and much more besides, is done in a different and delightful way, slí eile. Here, in this narrow-in-space but broad-in-mind place, your top local produce is stamped with the Warren Gillen imprint.

That long narrow space, divided into three rooms, each just a step or two up from its neighbour, has tables dressed in various colourful materials, mainly muted shades. Service too is calm and attentive without ever being in your face. A time and a place to relax.

And relax with a local beer from Cleverman, an amber or a pale ale, a Smoked Turf stout or a smooth light lager. You can also choose from the White Gypsy large bottle range: American Style Pale Ale, Russian Style Imperial Stout or a German Style Doppelbock. A pretty good, if short, wine list, includes a contribution from one of the modern Wine Geese, Wexford’s own Pat Neville who farms in the Languedoc.

Cleverman beers

Menus, water and breads soon arrive at the table. And one of those breads is dark and delicious and is made with the Clever Man stout and black treacle. A good start!

And starters? You’ll have quite a choice from the new Autumn menu that started its run on the first of September. Some stout too in my choice: The Glazed Pork-belly Salad (with stout and spices, red cabbage, curry and buttermilk). This was a delightful dish, great colour, texture and flavour, a great use of the popular Pork-belly.

Goats cheese is always popular on Irish menus. Gillen uses Bluebell Falls from Newtownshandrum in North Cork. It appears on the menu as Fried Bluebell Goats Cheese (with beetroot slaw, pear and hazelnuts). And appears on the plate as a delightful invitation to come and get me. And soon disappears with sighs of appreciation for yet another well constructed, well balanced combination. Each of the two starters costs 9 euro but the average price is eight.

Mighty mains.

And the same high standard continues into the mains, where the Bacon and Cabbage (Cistín Eile style) appears. He gets his beef from Doyle’s, a nearby butchers. It is a favourite here and Slow-cooked (10 hours) Doyle’s beef (with onion fondue, champ, carrot, and peppered cream) was my choice (17.00). It had been strongly recommended by the folks at our lodgings in Killiane Castle and so I was glad to be able to go back and report that it was absolutely brilliant, as they knew!

Cistín Eile is well known too for its fish dishes, the fish coming fresh from nearby Kilmore Quay. There was a special (18.00) on and CL went for it: Lemon Sole (with choucroute, rocket, home-fries, broccoli, citrus and herb aioli). Well cooked, well presented.

There are six desserts on the new menu, priced between seven and eight euro. We decided to share and agreed on the Gingercake, spiced caramel, rum and raisin ice-cream, rhubarb and chamomile. The agreement nearly ended when it arrived!  Let’s say the cake vanished quickly. A lovely finalé to a lovely meal. Very Highly Recommended. Recommended too to book in advance. Wonder if we could persuade Warren to move to Cork?
Cistín Eile
80 South Main Street
(053) 912 1616
Opening Hours
Mon-Tue: 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Wed-Sat: 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm. 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

See also:
The Hook Lighthouse. Ireland’s Ancient East
Johnstown Castle
The Archways. More than a B&B
24 Hours in Wexford Ancient Castle to Oldest Lighthouse
Mr Jeffares Blackcurrants

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wexford's Johnstown Castle. Agricultural Museum. So Much More

Wexford's Johnstown Castle.

Agricultural Museum. So Much More
Wexford’s Johnstown Castle  is a must visit. I enjoyed my first trip there more than a decade ago and it was even better second time around. It is the home of the Irish Agricultural Museum and current highlights include a Country Kitchens exhibition and a very informative Great Famine exhibition.

Barrel-top caravan and Horse-drawn bread delivery wagon.
The castle itself is not open to the public but you can take a walk around the grounds as well, see the lakes, the walled garden and the sunken garden and there is a Tearoom and Shop in the museum area. Today Teagasc, the Agricultural and Food Development Authority, is the owner of the Johnstown Castle estate and has a research facility on site.

The museum is divided into 18 exhibition areas. And the first section that caught my eye last month was the Transport area, in particular, the brightly painted bread delivery van, a horse drawn one. There are other horse drawn vehicles, carts and traps and a reaper, and more on display here.
Horse-drawn hay cutter and Ford Model 8 Nan Tractor (1947-52)
There is a Tractor Room, a Garden Machine Room, a display of Power-Driven Barn Machines. Poultry Keeping and Country Furniture also have their displays. Checked them all out and I also enjoyed a browse around the Dairy Exhibition.  Dairying is one of the timeless industries, producing the same product as it has done for thousands of years. This exhibition traces developments in dairying from hand milking to mechanical milking machines. The traditional methods of butter-making are also explored here.

It is also worth lingering by the Bicycle display which exhibits a variety of bikes, dating from 1885 – 1965, including one with a solid tyre (marketed as a safety bicycle) and a garda cycle. This room also includes bicycles made by Pierce of Wexford who were primarily farm machinery manufacturers and who indeed are well represented in the various machine areas.
Must say that I enjoyed the Country Kitchens area as much as any other. This, and the Famine area, are designed for the younger folk but I had no hesitation in picking up the information leaflets, full of facts and well laid out.

The Kitchens Display includes an Early 19th Century Kitchen, two from the 20th century, an account of Rural Electrification and a display on Laundry (washing, soap, drying and ironing). Lots of artefacts on display to help understand the way we were.
An outdoor larder and Hand Wringer
The Great Famine Exhibition, is probably one of the best I’ve come across on the subject and, with words and artefacts, it covers Pre Famine Ireland, the Arrival of Blight, The Famine 1845-49, The Soup Kitchen, The Workhouse, Emmigration, Post Famine, Potatoes Today and the Lessons of the Famine.

A chart on the display says the Irish male was consuming 6.4kgs (14 lbs) of potatoes per day in pre-famine times. After the famine, people made sure they never became so dependant on the potato again.

See also: Wexford's Archways, so much more than a B&B
Mr Jeffares Blackcurrants
Used this "machine", on right, myself
to spray against blight.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Wexford’s Archways. More Than A B & B

Wexford’s Archways. 
More Than a B & B.

Piggies in the wood
About four miles before Rosslare Harbour on the main road (N25), you’ll pass a B&B on your left. It is called the Archways and it is much more than your normal B&B. Certainly they get many customers from the ferries, some coming, some going, some both ways (people come back). But it is well worth a call even if you’re not heading to a ferry.

Okay, let us start with the usual B&B. The welcome from Eileen and Chris Hadlington is warm, the place is comfortable, the rooms are spacious, the bathrooms excellent, you have TV in your room and satellite TV in the lounge. And the breakfast is something else and was awarded the Best B&B Breakfast in the 2013 Georgina Campbell Awards.

It is a smallish B&B, six bedrooms, but the breakfast choice is huge and the quality is even more impressive. Where else would you get their own sausages, made from their own pigs? Add in Pat O’Neil’s dry cure bacon, Jimmy Meyler’s smoked fish and you get the idea. Of course, there is orange juice and a choice of cereals, lots of egg dishes too. You’ll be well fed here.
And even better fed if you book dinner. It is, of course, a Table d'Hote dinner, and you eat with the other guests, sharing travel experiences as you enjoy the fabulous food. Chris had been a chef for over forty years and just can't stop cooking.

Take our dinner last week. Starter was Meyler's smoked haddock with linguini and a watercress pesto. And where did that watercress come from? From their own garden, of course, where they have installed a aquaponic system.

Main course was loin of bacon (O’Neil’s of course) with a pineapple salsa and an excellent selection of vegetables including black kale, kohlrabi, parsnips, beetroot and potatoes, all grown locally by neighbour Karl.
Dessert was a Blackcurrant soufflé, the blackcurrants from Jeffares up the road. And the cream? Well Chris doesn't rate the cream sold these days and so he separates his own. Good stuff too. You may bring your own wine (no corkage) or purchase a glass or two from Eileen’s selection.

In the morning, we couldn’t leave without visiting the small herd of pigs in a nearby wood. The pigs, Saddleback Large White Cross, are usually kept from early Spring until late Autumn. In conjunction with two local farmers, they have a Hereford and Limousin in calf to a Wagyu and future customers can look forward to “some really fine beef”.

As I say, not your normal B&B.

See also: Johnstown Castle. Agricultural Museum and so much more!
Mr Jeffares Blackcurrants

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mr Jeffares Talks Blackcurrants. And Des Walks The Walk!

Mr Jeffares Talks Blackcurrants.
And Des Walks The Walk!
The harvesting machine moves slowly through the rows, a crew of five in attendance. It towers above the plants. But it is a gentle giant.

We were in the blackcurrant fields of the Jeffares in County Wexford watching this amazing mechanical harvest, amazing to those of us who, many moons ago, picked the crop by hand, accompanied by mothers and siblings and neighbours. The younger kids often got the worst job, going through the bushes for the paltry remains after the main picks had been done a few days earlier.

Des Jeffares reckons the machine is kinder to the bushes than the humans! Of course, back then the bushes were separate entities with their own space, so the pickers could access the fruit from all sides. Nowadays they are planted in “drills”, the only space is between the drills, none between the mature plants. But when the machine is finished with a row, you notice hardly the difference between it and one that has yet to be harvested, expect of course the absence of fruit.

The big machine handles the plants very gently as it pushes through the row and picks, any leaves and debris gathered are directed off to the side and the fruit comes out the back where the crew watch it loading onto the boxes. Mechanised or not, it is still quite a slow process and they are lucky to get two to three acres picked in a good day.
Des Jeffares
Des has seen it all. The family have been growing blackcurrants here since 1955 but it is only now that they have taken full control of the process after the harvest. The first product was on show at Ballykelly Farm last Tuesday. And that Mr Jeffares Blackcurrant Cordial is fabulous.

I had tasted a couple of the currants in the field and the cordial is a true expression of the fruit, a great purple colour with fresh and vibrant flavours, a refreshing thirst quencher at any time. The fruit is respected and they do not add any artificial colour, flavour or preservative.

Cut it with water and it is fine, mix in some sparkling water and you'll have a thirst quencher supreme. But don't rush, at least not always. Sit back and enjoy it mixed with apple juice, perhaps something stronger such as gin or even stout. Check out all the amazing drinks on their website.

Many of the drinks were available in the marquee at Ballykelly and we were well fed too and blackcurrants featured there as well. It was added to a salad dressing, featured on some roasts, and was especially attractive in the desserts, just take a look at the pics! Amazing stuff! I’ve often said that producers should add recipes to their site and the Jeffares have done that and more. Please check it out and make the best possible use of their amazing product which is widely available at these stockists.

Des and Margaret Jeffares have put a lot of thought and work into this. In the same way that craft brewers are opening new doors to flavoursome drinks, so the Jeffares are at the cutting edge of what could be a new wave of Irish fruit based drinks. A fruit drink for adults, someone said. No denying that but the kids in the marquee were enjoying it too.

Let us get behind Ballykelly, and make it a success that can be emulated by others around the country. Make the best use of the fruits that grow here: apples, strawberries and blackberries to gooseberries, loganberries and raspberries.

It is not an easy route, patience and capital are required. You won't get a decent crop from your blackcurrant bushes until they are four years old and they'll have to be replaced every fifteen years (or earlier if disease strikes). Pruning is a major annual task. And then, like the wine and cider maker, you get just the one chance per annum to get it right.

But, it can be a very sustainable way of farming. Des: “We try and work as best we can with nature. We allow for the birds to take a share. Indeed, these sheltering trees around the fields help the birds and we also have many nesting boxes, 70 or 80 per cent used, placed around the farm. We also have some bird scarers in place!”

Big attendance
 He explained that they encourage the local hawk population, to keep a natural balance. And they also have hedgehog habitats scattered around the 100 acres farm. Lots of grass cover in the fruit fields and under it their biggest pest, the vine weevil, can flourish. But so too does a certain predatory beetle that feeds on the weevil. Birds and hedgehogs also fancy the weevil. Nature at work!

Not all the one hundred acres is under fruit. There has to be crop rotation and we saw quite a bit of barley. Des says that Mustard is a great crop to plant in the rotation and is very excited about it.
The Blackcurrant fruit is hard won. And immediately after the picking, the priority is to “ice it and juice it”. It takes three quarters of a kilo to produce your 50 cl bottle of cordial.

It all seemed worth it in the sunshine at Ballykelly this week. Great to see people from all over the country there to support the pioneering Jeffares on these early steps of the journey. Best of luck to Des and Margaret and all the family.

See also: Wexford's Archways, so much more than a B&B
Johnstown Castle. Agricultural Museum and so much more!

At the rear of the harvester.